THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Thirty

No. 3 

 

March 1989

 

A RESTORATIONIST AT WORK --- SUMMER MEETING

 

 

Once again Marilyn and Bob Phelps have arranged for an interesting program for the Society's next meeting.

 

Date:               Sunday, August 20, 1989

Time:               3:00 p.m.

Place:              Batavia Civic Center, 327 W. Wilson Street

 

Program

      

Mike Dixon of Dixon Associates, an architectural firm located in St. Charles, will present a program on "The Sandwich City Hall and Opera House. Its Preservation and Continued Use," Mr. Dixon, who has been involved in numerous restoration and preservation activities and who is the recipient of awards in this area, will share insights into the work involved in restoring this “landmark” building in our nearby community of Sandwich.

 

Social Time:   

As usual, time for coffee and cookies with friends will follow the program. A short business meeting will precede Mr. Dixon's presentation. Will some members help Marilyn Phelps by providing cookies for the meeting?  

 

If you can assist, give Marilyn a call at 879-1924. 

    

Thanks!


 

MINI-QUIZ

 

1. What congregation built its first of four churches in 1876 at what is now 130 N. Batavia Ave. (east side almost to McKee St.) and its second church about 1891 at the southwest corner of Jackson and Houston streets?

 

2. Where was the St. James Methodist Church, organized in 1865, located?

 

3. Where was the Batavia Broom Works located during its operation in the early 1920s? 
 


Batavia the eighth of December, 1889

 

Dear Uncle and family,

Last year on Christmas I received a letter from you and I thought this year you should receive one from me. I always think it nice to receive letters for Christmas. I have now for the past couple of weeks not felt too good. I suffer from rheumatism and headaches. There is such a change in weather at this time of the year, one day it can be real nice and the next day bitter cold. We had some snow and the next week followed extreme cold. Then last week it turned nice again and yesterday and today it was like summer and we had the doors and windows open. Otherwise, I can send you greetings that all in the family are well of this date.  I often think of family and friends home in Norway.  Usually I get a letter from Mathea several times during the year but now I haven’t heard from him since last spring.  

 

 

My brother Christofer never writes so I don't know how he is. I really don't know what to write about. Here one day is like the next. It doesn't seem like too long since we came here though it is our fifth year here.  It has been quiet here this summer since I haven't had any boarders since last May, when I had three who all left for Washington Territory. I sometimes go out and take care of the sick, but I don't like that kind of work. I have enough of that at home. Then Art comes home twice a day to eat and that's hard on him when I'm away. He is still at his old job  He makes fifteen dollars a month at work from 7 in the morning till 8 in the evening. I can send you greetings from Chicago. From Inga I often get letters.  She is well and has a kind and decent husband. Inga was home for two months this year with her little girl.  They had built a house so that they were here while it was being furnished so they didn't have to rent a place during the time. I have been to visit them twice this summer.  

 

 

They have it so nice and I am so glad that they have gotten a house so that they don't have to move. It is a long way out in the suburbs, but everyone can't live in the city. They are so used to taking the streetcar to and from work that it is like it should be. Bernard takes the train in the morning and the street-car in the evening. You can't imagine how strange it was out there where they live when I first was there in July when there wasn't as many houses as now. It was flat land as far as the eye could see. Large herds of cattle and horses and goats and geese and pigs were all over the prairie.  But now it has been incorporated into the city and quite a change has come about since I was there in October. Several hundred houses were built this summer, blocks have been dug up and streets have been laid out both crosswise and lengthwise. Water mains were laid down as the building progressed. One housing lot costs 250 dollars, that's what Bernard had paid, but otherwise prices go up fast.  

 

 

There is a 28 foot frontage and sixty feet deep. And the house sits three to four yards in on the lot so that there is a small garden in front. When one has money to buy the lot then the landowner has the house built for a monthly payment of 10 dollars until it is paid for, a fair sum in any case, don't you think?  But back to Batavia again. I like it very much here if it only could be a little better with the income, but it doesn't look too promising. Here they are building houses like mad and the city is growing and getting bigger and bigger. We have now gotten electric light which for the first time turned on last evening. Anna sends her greetings to you all. She has a nice place nearby and visits home almost daily. She is what we in Norway called a "stuepike"(parlor girl), here they call it a second girl. There are three servants who are there, then the husband, wife and a grown up daughter. Her husband is vice president whose name is on this letterhead. These are the men who own all of Batavia or have owned it. It is told that John Van Nortwick, who is the father to the two others, bought the land here for 6 dollars an acre thirty or forty years ago. They have later sold house lots and still continue to sell them. One lot costs 2 to 300 dollars and is just expensive as in Chicago. They have a large paper and bag factory here in the city and also paper and pulp factories allover the country. The three are called millionaires.  

 

 

I better stop my writing this time. Hoping these lines come to you while in good health. Do you ever see my brother Christofer?  Give him my regards if you do. I sent him some newspapers last week but I am not certain of his correct address. We have a slaughter here for Christmas these days and I bought a half pig for five dollars for 100 pounds which is cheaper than last year when we paid 7-8 dollars. However it isn't expensive to live here. The prices have come down quite a bit lately. Good farm butter is 22¢ a pd., dairy butter is more expensive. Coffee and sugar is also cheaper now than last winter. The farmers drive around the city and sell milk for 5¢ a quart which is not quite one pot as we say in old Norwegian. At the dairy we can buy skimmed milk and buttermilk for one cent per quart. There was a lot of potatoes this summer. I had set 1/2 bushel in the garden. I don't know but I am almost certain that I got 12 bushels into the cellar and they were both large and good. Well, now you must all have my best wishes. If you are well, Uncle, then I hope that you write to me so that I will know how you are all living.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all.

 

An affectionate greeting from me.

 

Miss Marie Pedersen.

 

 

Note:

The above letter, translated from Norwegian, was written by Marie (nee Arnesen) Pedersen to an uncle in Norway. She was born in Norway about 1838 and died in Batavia in 1924. The letter and translation were donated by Miss Vera Beutlich of Chicago, a

grand-niece of Mrs. Pedersen. The letter gives an insight into Batavia of 100 years ago and how it was viewed by one of' the Scandanavian immigrants. 

 

It also ties in with some of the remembrances of Laurens and Kenneth Wolcott which are appearing in this year's Newsletters.The following article, "Hired Girls", is the second of the excerpts from the Wolcott memoirs, "Life in the Good Old Days in a Small Illinois Town: 1872-1910."

 


"HIRED GIRLS"

 

One facet of family life in those days deserving mention is The Hired Girl, rarely called a "maid" in our circle.

 

 The average person of your generation reading or hearing of them is inclined to regard them as an unnecessary luxury, and to feel that "keeping a maid" indicated either great affluence or an attempt to show off -- to keep up with the Joneses.  

 

This is far from the case. There were very few really wealthy families in Batavia -- possibly the Newtons, the Van Nortwicks and one or two others came closest.  

 

There were comparatively few that could properly be classed as "comfortably well-to-do", this including the Henry Wades, Mallorys, Prindles, Uncle Henry, Dr. Patterson and a few others.  

 

But nearly all of our friends and many of our other neighbors had a hired girl and kept her busy, often ten or twelve hours a day, seven days a week. It is scarcely possible for you, indeed it is very difficult for me looking back over some seventy to eighty years to my own childhood experiences, to comprehend the tedious hours of endless housework which have been abolished by the modern, push-button gadgets.

 

I shall mention only a few:

 

1)  Keeping the home fires burning, in the kitchen all day, winter and summer; in the various stoves all around the house during cool or cold weather.

 

2)  Gathering all kerosene lamps from every room in the house, cleaning and polishing all lamp chimneys, filling lamps and returning all to their respective locations.

 

3)  Sweeping and dusting with broom and dust cloth, every room in the house at least once a week; living room and dining room brushed up daily.

 

4) Complete laundry for the entire family including "boiled shirts" for the men; ruffles and flounces and many skirts, shirt-waists and unmentionables for the women and girls; all bed-linen for the family and guests, if any; also table-linen -- tablecloths and linen napkins.

 

All washed by hard, hand scrubbing in water pumped and carried by hand and heated on the hot stove, then the entire washing carried out-doors, hung up to dry, taken down, carried back into the house, sprinkled, folded and later ironed with a heavy, hot flat-iron heated on the hot stove, summer and winter.

 

5) Baking -- cakes, cookies and pies, as well as several large loaves of bread to be "raised", kneaded and baked twice a week.

 

6) Preparing, cooking and serving twenty meals a week including washing and putting away the dishes, setting table for the next meal, etc.

 

7) Baby-sitting afternoons and evenings.

 

 

This list is far from complete. There is much more, particularly for families with babies or small children, or (as in our case) where horses, cows and/or chickens are kept. The hired girl was not ordinarily involved in the outside care of the animals but it always involved extra dishes, hot water, dirt tracked in, etc.

 

As the children grow older they usually contribute somewhat on the positive side, partially offsetting the extra laundry, food, dishes, etc., they require. The boys usually helped at least in pumping and carrying water, bringing in the wood (fuel), keeping the coal scuttle filled, carrying out ashes, garbage, etc. 

 

The girls sometimes made their own beds and perhaps some of the others. More rarely they did, or helped to do, the dishes and other kitchen work. Mother and, I believe, most of the other women used to plan most of the meals and do some or most of the cooking. Frequently they also helped out with the other house-work, particularly on wash-day. Mother was usually busy around the house most forenoons and often much more of the day. Most housewives made most of their own and their children's clothes. In many cases that applied to boys' as well as girls' clothing. For all practical purposes there were no hospitals then. 

 

Nearly every baby was born in his mother's own home. All childhood diseases were treated at home. Accidental injuries, broken limbs, all illnesses, light or serious diseases up to and including the terminal one were cared for in the home by the mother.

 

Another factor helping to account for the widespread employment of hired girls was their availability. There was virtually no female labor in industry then except in textile mills and the garment industry, both non-existent in our area.  

 

Most girls left school at 14 or 15; very few went beyond High School. If there were younger brothers and sisters the older girls helped out at home and "learned the trade" against the day they got a home of their own to manage.  If the family were hard-pressed or if the girl were unusually independently minded she might go "to help out" a relative or neighbor during an illness or other emergency.  

 

Sometimes that might last for years. Of course that did not enhance a girl's social standing, but if she handled herself tactfully she could continue with her friendships and some social life.  Really, there was not very much other opportunity for her.  She could be either a dressmaker or a teacher.  There were a few -- a very few -- women clerks in stores -- bakery, dry-goods, etc.  

 

There were also a very few trained nurses.  I cannot now remember knowing one in Batavia, aside from those imported for service at Bellevue Asylum who were never included in any of our social activities.  Some offices were just beginning to hire women "typewriters". (I never heard the word "stenographer" until I was well over a dozen years old; it did not come into common use in Batavia until much later.)  Neither the Newton Wagon Company nor the Appleton Co. hired any women in their offices until years later. Something like half the population of Batavia's population on the West Side were Swedish, largely recent immigrants.  When their girls finished or quit school they were eligible for housework.  Reasonably accomplished, competent, experienced girls were paid three to four dollars a week (plus room and board, of course).  A few exceptionally capable, good housekeepers and cooks got (and earned) five dollars, possibly in rare cases more, after years of service.  But these were exceptions. Women who needed help but could not or would not meet the three-dollar rate could usually get a green girl who spoke some broken English but had no experience in housework, American style, for two dollars.  I remember one "green girl" Mother had fresh off the ship, knowing a few words of English and nothing else -- even when Mother shouted, to help her understand better.  

 

 

It was generally agreed among the women that "it does not pay to train a green girl. After doing most of her work for her for two or three months to show her how, then picking up after her for another three months, she goes and gets a job with someone else as an experienced girl for three dollars.  They don't show any appreciation or loyalty at all." The Paper Bag Company then began hiring a considerable number of girl operators.  Their pay was low, perhaps $4. to $5. or $6. per week -- without board of course.  But the girls could still live at home, pay $2. or $3. toward the family budget and still have as much or more for themselves.  Much more important was the fact that they had all their evenings off and their work week ended at 5 PM Saturday.  That situation aroused the housewives of Batavia as nothing else did. Sometimes a hired girl would remain with a family for many years.  Not all were Swedish, altho most of them naturally were.  We had one Irish girl, Hannah O'Boyle, who was "in office" at the time I was born and remained with us until I was five or six, a total of nine years with the family as I remember it.  The Henry Wade's Christine was a permanent fixture there for many years, as was Uncle Henry's Katy.  Uncle Henry and Aunt Helen, by the way, always had two girls and a man which were really needed for their large house, large family and the huge lawn, barn and garden -- the latter of course requiring the hired man.  They were all kept comfortably busy.  


Ancestors of many of our Society's members were "hired girls" as described in this article including those of several of our officers.  May and Elliott Lundberg's grandmother worked for the Newtons when she first came from Sweden.  Marilyn Phelps' mother was a maid for the vanNortwicks and her father was the chauffeur.  At a later time, May worked for the Will Wolcotts helping with the dishes and cleaning for $1.00 per week.  May says she shouldn't be classified as a "hired girl" like those in the article as her duties were not the same and that most hired girls of that type were no longer employed in homes when she worked for the Wolcotts.



 

ANSWERS TO MINI-QUIZ

 

1.                 

The present Evangelical Covenant Church.  Before building its present church on Main Street, its third building was at the corner of Lincoln and Houston.  In the early days it was known as the Swedish Mission Church.  According to Elliott Lundberg, when the building at Lincoln and Houston was built, the church at Jackson and Houston was divided into two parts.  Half was moved to the southwest corner of Mallory and Houston and made into the house in which May and Sadie Lundberg now 1ive.  The other half became the house immediately south of the church at Lincoln and Houston.

 

2.                 

In 1865 Batavia's Negro community organized its own church which was known as the St. James A.M.E. Church.  The congregation built a church on the northwest corner of N. River St. and Logan across the street from the present Logan Street Baptist Church.  When the Logan Street Baptist Church was organized in 1921, apparently the St. James A.M.E. Church members merged with the new congregation and eventually their old building was torn down.  In 1924 Rev. Robert Hazelwood was 1isted as the minister of the St. James A.M.E. Church in the City Directory.  He was the great-uncle of the present Rev. Truman Hazelwood of the Logan Street Baptist Church.

 

 

3.                 

The broom factory was located in a small stone building behind the old Burton store at the northwest corner of Batavia Ave. and Main St. (currently Robbins Flowers.)  It was either enlarged (or more likely torn down) as its site became the location of the Lies Chevrolet Garage in the late 1920's.  A Carl M. Anderson is listed as the owner of the broom factory and he 1ived on Elm Street.  Art Swanson remembers stopping to watch them make brooms in the factory and Lynn Clever recalls his grandfather planting broom corn and bringing it into town to the factory.

 

It was called to my attention following last issue's Mini-Quiz that a number of Swedish immigrants first arrived in Batavia at the former depot located on Commercial (now Harrison) St. near First St.  Some never left the area.  From several sources with whom I have checked, it seems that J. Alfred Bergeson and Gerda Peterson (longtime Lutheran organist) both arrived at that station and lived their entire lives within one block of it.  I would guess similar examples could be found for other immigrants and the other depots.


DEPOT MUSEUM BENEFITS PLANNED!

 

Have you noticed all the renovation going on at the old Louise White School?  Do the outside improvements arouse your curiosity as to what it looks 1ike inside?  Have you heard about the fabulous apartment the owners have created on the second floor?  Thanks to the Batavia Antique Dealers, this fall you will be able to see what the Daytons have done to turn the old school into a unique home and business site. On Saturday evening, Nov. 25th, a "Champagne Dessert': will be held at the Old Louise White School with the proceeds from tickets designated for the renovation of the Depot Museum to provide more displays.  The program being sponsored by the antique dealers will include a tour of the lovely apartment on the second floor--something you won't want to miss! In addition, there will be entertainment, a delightful dessert, and a preview of the planned annual spring antique show.  Starting next June, the dealers will host a two-day show with ticket sale proceeds designated as a donation to the Society. 
 


 

NEEDED: SOME DEDICATED AND WILLING WORKERS!

 

Both the Old Louise White School Champagne Dessert and the Spring Antique Show merit our full support.  As the dealers have limited "manpower”, there will be a number of tasks calling for people's time and effort.  We are counting on the membership to pitch in and volunteer their services.  This is an opportunity for many members who have not been active to become involved. Assistance with promotion and ticket sales will be needed.  At the November event we expect to furnish people who will act as docents, greeters, ticket collectors, and security "watchers". If you would be willing to assist, please call Dot or Jim Hanson (879-7492) or Marilyn Phelps (879-1924).

 


MEMBERSHIP

 

A number of people have joined the Society since the last newsletter.  We welcome them and trust they will enjoy the association and be active in it.  Long-time member Barbara Conde Hopkins of Vancouver, British Columbia, is the latest person to become a Life Member.